Wed 08 Jun 2022 03:46:33 AM UTC : 1654659993

True Crime
'True Crime' is described by Wickedpedia as 'a literary and film genre in which the author examines an actual crime and details the actions of real people associated with and affected by criminal events'. Seems reasonable. Even Wickedpedia can't be wrong all the time, no matter how hard it tries. It seems that the genre has existed for centuries, but expanded greatly with the development of printing technology. It then refers to Truman Capote's 'In Cold Blood' as establishing the modern style, and I am inclined to agree. Accordingly I blame him for Nancy Grace and every other exploiter of human suffering in this medium. Given Capote's slimy nature, it is fitting.

The aforementioned work puts Capote into this narrative with another rather unpleasant character named Clarence Darrow. I consider him unpleasant. You can read his bio in the same Wickedpedia and judge for yourself. There are plenty of other reasons for distaste, but since we are discussing true crime here, I am anyway, the Leopold and Loeb case is mine.

So how do we get these two infamous (in my humble opinion) individuals together? I know I just began a sentence with 'So', but this is one case in which it is proper. The millions of times it is done daily by... nevermind. Let's go.

Briefly, for those who do not know, Truman Capote was a writer of the mid-to-late twentieth century known mostly (outside of writing for the various highbrow - I guess - magazines like the New Yorker, Harpers, etc) before achieving fame outside that environment with 'In Cold Blood'. Not to comment on Capote personally, aside from the fact that the veracity of this 'true crime' book was challenged by many who had first-hand knowledge of the affair and his duplicity in dealing with the various players. There is sufficient documentation elsewhere, in print and other media, including television interviews with the investigators and other involved persons. These days you may have to spend some time looking for it. In any case, his description of the book as a "nonfiction novel" is probably close to being accurate. The fiction part certainly. But the important thing is the case that inspired it. That would be the Clutter family murder case. Here's a link:

Let's move on briefly to Clarence Darrow. From an earlier time (dying just a few years after Capote was born) he is best known for his involvement in the Scopes Monkey Trial and the Leopold and Loeb case. He seems to have been a liberal nutjob, as we say today. Draw your own conclusions - the Wickedpedia article seems reasonably accurate. Our interest here - my interest anyway, and I'm writing this (OK, for posterity, just in case I do somehow become massively famous and am remembered for generations beyond Darrow and Capote I am using a Dell computer running Mint Linux 20.2 and using Vim in a terminal window. Fastest way to write if you know what you're doing, and I've been doing it for upwards or thirty years now) - is the Leopold and Loeb case.

"The rich never hang...
...only the poor and friendless". According to Capote, that was said by Perry Smith (one of the perpetrators of the Clutter murders). And it is generally true. Lord Ferrers might disagree, although he may indeed have been friendless, given his behavior. The matter of the silk rope seems to be apocryphal. But generally, a better quality of justice is available for the right price. Using the term 'justice' loosely of course. The Clutter case and that of Loeb and Leopold demonstrate this as well as can ever be needed.

The Clutter family murders: In the early morning hours of November 15, 1959, four members of the Clutter family -- Herb Clutter, his wife Bonnie, and their teenage children Nancy and Kenyon -- were murdered in their rural home, just outside the small farming community of Holcomb, Kansas. The perpetrators, ex-convicts Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, entered the house at night while the family was asleep, awakened them and tied them up and demanded money (of which they believed a large quantity was kept in a safe) and, when the money was not produced killed the family members, one at a time - Mr. Clutter and his son in the basement, and his daughter and wife in their bedrooms. Each was shot in the head with a shotgun. The killings took place over, at a minimum, the time required to kill father and son in the basement, they go upstairs to the bedrooms of mother and daughter and kill them. They must have suffered as much mental anguish and terror as is possible in the time between hearing the shots in the basement, the footsteps approaching their rooms, knowing what was about to happen. There can be no doubt that if people should be put to death for their crimes, these two certainly merited such punishment. Which was meted out a relatively short time by today's standards - under six years.

The murder of Bobby Franks: Leopold and Loeb (who were 19 and 18, respectively, at the time) settled on kidnapping and murdering a younger adolescent as their perfect crime. They spent seven months planning everything, from the method of abduction to disposal of the body. To obfuscate the precise nature of their crime and their motive, they decided to make a ransom demand, and devised an intricate plan for collecting it, involving a long series of complex instructions to be communicated, one set at a time, by phone. They typed the final set of instructions involving the actual money drop in the form of a ransom note, using the typewriter stolen from the fraternity house. A chisel was selected as the murder weapon and purchased. After a lengthy search for a suitable victim, mostly on the grounds of Harvard School for Boys in the Kenwood area, where Loeb had been educated, they decided upon Robert "Bobby" Franks, the 14-year-old son of wealthy Chicago watch manufacturer Jacob Franks. Bobby Franks was Loeb's second cousin and an across-the-street neighbor who had played tennis at the Loeb residence several times. They killed the young boy at the time they abducted him, and then sent a ransom note to his parents, their torment ending perhaps earlier than planned when the victim's body was found. They would escape the most severe punishment available due to the efforts of the revered-by-some-foolish-people Clarence Darrow, who ended his presentation (a plea for mercy rather than a defense, as the killers had already pleaded guilty) with a 12-hour (I am not kidding you) speech, described as a "masterful plea" called by some "the finest speech of his career". I would suggest it is not something to be proud of. For any sane person at least.

At any rate, the two miscreants were spared a prompt death and sentenced to life in prison. Loeb died in prison about twelve years later, sliced-and-diced (figuratively speaking of course) by a fellow inmate. Homosexual murers are almost always nasty, usually involving sharp or blunt instruments, if not both. Loeb was homosexual, whether Leopold was before he became Loeb's sex partner is not known. The inmate of offed Loeb was believed to be as well, although it is also said by some that he killed Loeb because of a sexual advance. In any case, the sane world breathed a bit more freely. Leopold would be paroled after thirty-three years and live another dozen or so, dying a free man at sixty-six, just a handful of years short of the average life expectancy for that time (1970).

Hickock and Smith of the Clutter case were two of the lower class - Hickock the child of farm workers, described as "a popular student and an athlete" in high school, but lacking the financial means to attend college. He seems to have been a good mechanic, but chose petty crime over hard work. Smith certainly had a difficult life, the child of alcoholic mother and an abusive father, but many people experience such an early life and do not become mass murderers. He failed at military service and for unknown reasons ended up in prison, where he met Hickock. Perhaps if the two had not reunited after leaving prison, the murders never have occurred. But they did. Both men, having a choice to live a law-abiding life or do something else, did something else. And four innocent lives ended at their hands. If you believe that capital punishment is appropriate, few have ever deserved it more.

Leopold and Loeb had no such difficulties in their early lives. The children of wealthy families, both had completed college and were exceptionally intelligent. The sort of young men who become successful at some occupation of business and marry, have children, and generally satisfying lives. Both men (tecnically at least, being aged 18 and 19, respectively) considered themselves so much more intelligent than the rest of the population and had an unhealthy interest in crime. In addition, they perceived themselves as being exempt from the normal ethics and rules of society. After finding various petty crimes unsatisfying, they planned to carry out a 'perfect crime', believing that they would never be caught. The murder of a 14-year-old boy was solely the result of their twisted egos. If anyone deserved to die more than Hickock and Smith, these two certainly did.

The families of Leopold and Loeb had the financial resources to hire the best legal defense available, and Clarence Darrow accomplished the objective of saving the lives of their aberrant offspring. As far as I know, Darrow never took a case defending a working-class nobody. He did defend a black man who was most likely wrongfully accused, most likely due to racial prejudice, given the time and the circumstances. But he was not a "champion of the underdog" as some would claim. He did advocate euthanizing 'unfit children', whatever that means. As for his opposition to capital punishment, I find it strange that he would find the killing of children without ever giving them a chance to live but does not wish to see a criminal, even one guilty of the crimes of Hickock and Smith (presumably he would be so consistent) and Leopold and Loeb. I oppose the use of capital punishment if it can not be done without capitally punishing an innocent person, or even a guilty one undserving of death. And we are as a society incapable of doing so, or of providing an acceptable alternative to death, i.e. reliably ensuring that the offender is never again allowed to be free in society to commit more depredations.

Quiescent Benevolence ~~ Thu 09 Jun 2022 01:07:02 AM UTC : 1654736822

In Cold Blood: 1959 film based on the book by Truman Capote
In Cold Blood: TV miniseries based on the book by Truman Capote
Compulsion: a 1959 film based on the Leopold and Loeb case
Murder by Numbers: a 2002 film based even more loosely on the Leopold and Loeb case
Wed 08 Jun 2022 10:15:42 PM UTC : 1654726542